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2016 AFC West Preview
The playing field has finally made the division attainable. Photo courtesy of fansided.com

2016 AFC West Preview

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Allen Fields, Bronx, NY

 

 

 

 

 

The Denver Broncos have dominated the AFC West division recently, winning five of the last six titles. The wide receivers have taken center stage in this division. Each team has a pair of receivers you must game plan for. The team that plays consistent defense and has a running game to compliment the passing attack usually takes the division title. The Broncos are no shoe in this coming season. The Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders will have a lot to say about who wins this division.

 

 Kansas City Chiefs

Record in 2015: 11-5

Key Player: Running Back- Jamaal Charles

Player To Watch: Linebacker- Justin Houston

Outlook: The defense was outstanding last season and that was with an injured Justin Houston (he still led the team in sacks with 7.5). He’s now healthy and ready to go. Linebacker Derrick Johnson was outstanding filling the leader role last season (116 tackles) who wants to continue the success in 2016. The defensive backs are tackling ballhawks led by strong safety Eric Berry and cornerback Marcus Peters. In order for team to be a Super Bowl contender, the offense must be better. Quarterback Alex Smith was good last season (3,486 passing yards but only 20 touchdown passes). Who else besides wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and tight end Travis Kelce will step up to compliment them? The offense needs to be opened up. Running back Jamaal Charles needs to regain his old form to accelerate this process. They must also find a way to get speedster De’Anthony Thomas involved in the offense as well. Prediction: 12-4

 

 Oakland Raiders

Record in 2015: 7-9

Key Player: Running Back- Latavius Murray

Player To Watch: Linebacker- Bruce Irvin

Outlook: They have a rising star at quarterback in Derek Carr (3,987 passing yards, 32 touchdowns and a 61.1 completion rate) and he’ll get better. Wide receivers Amari Cooper, who was a problem for defenses as a rookie (1,070 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns) and Michael Crabtree (922 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns) who continues his steady play are primed for big years. Running back Latavius Murray was a pleasant surprise last season (1,066 rushing yards and 4.0 rushes per carry) and looks to improve on that. The defense is loaded but they must cut down on giving up the big plays. Giving up 24.9 points per game is not good. Starting with All-Pro defensive end/linebacker Khalil Mack (15 sacks) who is ready to take the next step. Linebacker Malcolm Smith was special last season with 122 tackles. Add more speed at linebacker with Bruce Irvin and this defense is primed to wreak havoc on opposing offenses. Prediction: 10-6

 

 Denver Broncos

Record in 2015: 12-4

Key Player: Running Backs- C.J. Anderson

Player To Watch: Quarterback- Trevor Siemian

Outlook: The defense will be hard pressed to duplicate last season’s dominance (4th in points allowed-18.5 and 1st in yards allowed per game-283.1). It seemed like linebackers Von Miller (11 sacks) and DeMarcus Ware (7.5 sacks) could not be kept out of the backfield. They will still be good though. Trevor Siemian was named the starting quarterback, a shock to some. He’ll be asked to manage the game but they will struggle if they get the same quarterback production as last season. The good news for him is he has a dynamic duo at wide receiver with Demaryius Thomas (1,304 receiving yards) and Emmanuel Sanders (1,135 receiving yards). At running back, C.J. Anderson will carry the load and look to improve on a disappointed season last year. The Broncos hope he can make Siemian’s job easier. Prediction: 9-7

 

 San Diego Chargers

Record in 2015: 4-12

Key Player: Left Tackle- King Dunlap

Player To Watch: Linebacker- Melvin Ingram

Outlook: Quarterback Philip Rivers (4,792 passing yards, 29 touchdowns and a 66.1 completion rate) can still throw the ball but he took a pounding last season (sacked 40 times). He spreads the wealth to receivers Danny Woodhead (755 receiving yards), Keenan Allen (725 receiving yards), Antonio Gates (630 receiving yards) and Malcolm Floyd (561 receiving yards). The problem is the yardage gained did not equate to points (7th worst at 20 points per game). Rookie running back Melvin Gordon (641 rushing yards and 0 touchdowns) was a big disappointment. Better production is needed from Gordon if the Chargers want any chance of competing. The defense got good news with the signing of 1st round pick, defensive end Joey Bosa. They were 21st in points allowed per game (24.9) and 20th in yards allowed per game (361.9). Linebacker Melvin Ingram has really came into his own (10.5 sacks) and lis to build on that momentum. Third year reserve linebacker Jerry Attaochu (six sacks) seems like the lightbulb has gone off which they need more depth to help the pass rush. Predictions: 3-13

 

 

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